Last week, July29th- August 6th, I went on an unforgettable journey into the land of the Incas, Peru.
The trip was organized by Orient Express, http://www.orient-express.com. And I must say it was a very well organized trip. It was also very relaxing for my mom which is good given the fact that we were in high altitudes and were traveling through a developing nation.
The guides made sure we averted crowds and took us on easy walks rather than rushing from site to site. Every hotel we stayed at was owned or run by Orient Express and the meals provided or recommended by Orient Express were indeed very delicious!
We arrived in Lima at night on Continental Airlines, which I must say is one of the better US Carriers that I have experienced. And stayed 1 night in the Miraflores Park Hotel. The next morning we boarded a LAN Peru flight to Cuzco where we checked into the Hotel Monasterio, an old 16th century Monastery that was converted into a hotel. It received many awards for best service in South America however we didnt experience this service until our last day, due to the independence week holiday.
The next 2 days were spent exploring Cuzco and the surrounding area, mainly looking at old Inca streets, walls and ruins. Sites such as the Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, Koricancha an Inca sun temple where the Spanish built a church atop of only to have the church be destroyed by an earthquake revealing the ruins below. We also visited Sacsayhuaman (pronounced SexyWoman) and ancient Inca temple and fortress of sorts, constructed with large stones. This is also where we got a great overview of Cuzco City. We visited Quenqo and Tambomachay. Tambomachay is where we saw Inca fountains that still worked. We also visited the Temple of Mother Earth which was a mound of stone with a cave like shrine and an altar in it. Here is also where we witnessed offerings to the gods which included the fetus of a Llama.
They organized it this way so that we could get acclimated to the high altitude before descending to Machu Picchu where a lot of walking was required.
After 3 days in Cuzco we boarded the Hiram Bingham Train at the Poroy station and embarked on a scenic 3.5 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu. We then spent 2 days at Machu Picchu and stayed at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel right next to the site. More on Machu Picchu in my next post!
On the 5th day we boarded an evening train to Ollyantaytambo, the town in the Sacred Valley where we checked into the Hotel Rio Sagrado (hotel sacred river). A nice quaint little villa/ cottage style hotel next to the scared Urumbamba River.
The next day we toured the Sacred Valley and visited Inca Ruins in Pisac. It was called the Sacred Valley for its fertile land where most of the potato and corn in the country was grown in the Inca times. Peru was the nation that officially domesticated the more than 3000 types of potatoes and more than 500 types of corn that we are so familiar with in our day to day diets now.
For lunch we drove up a mountain into a plot of land owned by a foreign landlord who came to Peru in the late 19th early 20th century, we drove to his main estate where we had a delicious lunch prepared with local ingredients.
We then toured a local Peruvian/ Inca house in Ollyantaytambo, where we saw how the Inca descendants lived.
On the last day we boarded a flight back to Lima, where we spent an afternoon touring Old City Lima and the Presidential Palace. Lima has many colorful colonial buildings with its famous wood carved balconies. We also visited a modern mall that was built on a cliff in Miraflores. Then we boarded our late night flight back to Newark.
The 8 day 7 night journey to Lima, Cuzco, and the Sacred Valley was well worth the time, money and effort. It was made even better by the well organized Orient Express who’s guides don’t babble on about puny details that you are bound to forget but rather get to the point and make sure you understand and will remember the key facts about each site and the Inca culture.
I highly recommend using Orient Express for a journey across exotic lands such as Myanmar or Peru, they really do make you feel comfortable and you are able to take in and enjoy the country for what it is.